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Electronic Resources Policy

Learn what constitutes acceptable use of the library’s electronic resources.

Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources Policy

The McMaster Health Sciences Library licenses content from a variety of vendors and publishers to provide students, faculty, and staff with thousands of electronic resources (e.g. databases, e-journals, e-books, etc.). These resources support our users’ learning, teaching, and research activities, and cost millions of dollars per year.

Use of these resources is governed by copyright restrictions and by contracts between the Library and the electronic resource provider. The negotiated license agreements stipulate how and by whom a given resource may be used. If license terms are violated by anyone, licensors may temporarily suspend access for the entire university community. In cases where a resolution cannot be reached, the vendor may have the right to permanently revoke access to the resource.

By using electronic resources licensed by the Health Sciences Library, users agree to review and comply with all applicable terms and conditions.


  • Making a limited number of print or electronic copies for personal use
  • Using materials only for personal, instructional or research needs
  • Sharing content only with McMaster faculty, staff and students
  • Posting links to specific content rather than sharing an electronic copy
  • Showing videos only to a McMaster audience. Seek additional approval when showing more broadly.
Research poster, presentation, publications, theses
  • Always seek permission from the publisher or vendor before using images, charts etc. Most large publishers or vendors have online submission forms to handle such requests.
  • Always acknowledge your source on any document when you use data found on electronic resources.

Not acceptable

  • Sharing resources with individuals not affiliated with McMaster University
  • Providing access to someone outside of the university community, such as an employer or non-McMaster members of a research unit
  • Posting (re-distributing) licensed content to the web or Listservs
  • Using content such images, charts, etc in public presentations, posters, or publications without prior permission from the publisher or vendor
  • Using electronic resources for commercial purposes or selling content
  • Engaging in systematic or substantial printing, copying or downloading (such as entire journal issues or entire books), including use of any crawling or replicating software
  • Modifying or altering the contents of licensed resources in any way
  • Sharing your Mac ID and password with others. Your MacID is your personalized credential that allows access to licensed resources.

Grey areas

There is variation between licences. Some license agreements explicitly provide allowances for courseware, multiple copies for classroom use and interlibrary lending. Other licenses may prohibit one or more of these activities.

Specific license conditions may be shown on the website of a given electronic resource under such headings as “Acceptable Use”, “Conditions of Use”, or “Copyright”.  In addition, some of our license information is publicly available through the Ontario Council of University Libraries.

If you are unsure about permissions for use, contact the Health Sciences Library’s Technical Services Department.